|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
January 26, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President to Italian Leaders
Pallazo della Minerva
11:38 A.M. (Local)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, President Pera. Today I plan to set a new record. (Laughter.) But not that long. President Casini, Deputy Prime Minister Fini and distinguished guests: I want to thank you for the warm welcome. It's a privilege to join you in this magnificent library, in this fine palace, in this historic capital. Mrs. Cheney and I have visited your beautiful! country on many occasions, bit we're genuinely, really pleased to be here once again.
Our country has a special regard for Italy, and for the Italian people. The traditions of your ancient civilization are a daily presence in American life. Generations of new citizens who began their journey in Italy have contributed to the character of America with their values of faith in God, love of family and a deep appreciation of freedom.
Our two countries -- with longstanding ties of history and culture, and a shared commitment to liberty, democracy, and peace -- stand together as the closest of allies, and the warmest of friends. And I count it a high honor to bring you good wishes from President George W. Bush and the people of the United States of America.
This journey gives me the opportunity to pay homage to some of those who have sacrificed for our common security. Later today I will visit the military cemetery at Anzio-Nettuno, where 60 years ago this week allied forces began a mission of liberation. And this morning I am proud to be in the presence of members of your brave Army, Air Force, Navy and Carabinieri, as well as the Red Cross and the Voluntary Nurse Corps -- staunch friends of the United States and brave comrades in! the cause of liberty.
Italians and Americans do not forget that the liberty we cherish has come at a cost. And in the decades since the liberation of Europe, we have been part of a great and enduring alliance of free peoples. Members of this alliance have faced monumental challenges, and we have overcome them together. In this new century, facing new challenges, we must remain united to defend our freedom and to meet the shared duties of free nations.
Today's generation of leaders has no greater responsibility than to protect our people against known dangers. On September 11th, 2001, we saw the face of danger in our era with terrible clarity. And yet for all the destruction and grief it caused, September 11th gave us the merest glimpse of the threat that international terrorism poses for us all.
You and I know that terrorist violence is hardly new in history -- and over the years Italy has experienced awful suffering at the hand of terrorists. Yet we understand that 21st century terrorism presents a new and a far greater peril to us all. Civilized nations face a sophisticated global network of terrorists who are opposed to the values of liberty, tolerance, and openness that are the basis of our societies.
From materials seized by coalition forces in Afghanistan, and from interrogations of captured terrorists, we know they are doing everything they can to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons. Were they to gain those weapons -- either by their own efforts or with help from an outlaw regime -- no appeal to reason or morality would prevent them from committing the worst of horrors.
Italians and Americans know that we must act with all the urgency this danger demands. Civilized people everywhere must do everything in our power to defeat terrorism and to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Our success will depend on meeting several responsibilities. The first of them is to confront the ideologies of violence at the source, by promoting democracy throughout the greater Middle East and beyond.
We know from experience that the institutions of self government turn the energies of human beings away from violence, to the peaceful work of building better lives. Democracies do not breed the anger and radicalism that drag down whole societies and export violence. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destiny and choose their own leaders.
For the best illustration of these truths, we need not look far. By the middle of the 20th century, generations of conflict had led some to conclude that permanent tension was a fact of life in Europe, and that some European cultures were incapable of sustaining democratic values. We know that this pessimistic view was false. The true sources of conflict were despotic and anti-democratic regimes. The defeat of fascism and the spre! ad of democracy after World War II was the precondition for peace and prosperity in Western Europe. Likewise, the defeat of Soviet communism and the spread of democracy in Eastern Europe made possible a continent whole and free -- and increasingly stable and prosperous.
What was once said about Europe is often said today about the greater Middle East. We are told that democratic values can never take root in that part of the world. These claims are condescending, and they are false. The desire for freedom is universal. Whenever ordinary people are given the chan! ce to choose, they choose freedom, democracy and the rule of law, not slavery, tyranny and the heavy tread of the secret police.
In the years of the Cold War, we learned that we could not safely put a boarder on freedom. Security was not divisible in Europe; it is not divisible in the world. Our choice is not between a unipolar world and a multipolar world. Our choice is for a just, free and democratic world. That requires the insights, sacrifices and resources of all democratic nations. And it requires the coura! ge, sacrifice and dedication of those now denied their basic freedoms.
It is clear that reform has many advocates in the Muslim world. Arab intellectuals have spoken of a "freedom deficit," and of the imperative for internal reform, greater political participation, the rule of law, economic openness, and wider trade. And we have begun to see movement toward reform in the greater Middle East.
Of course, the most dramatic recent examples are seen in the liberated countries of Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, two years after the overthrow of the brutal Taliba! n regime, the Loya Jirga has approved a constitution that reflects the values of tolerance and of equal rights for women. Under President Karzai's leadership, and with help from democratic countries around the world, the Afghan people are building a decent, just and a free society -- and a nation that will never again be a safe haven for terror.
In Iraq, too, after decades of Baathist rule, democracy is beginning to take hold. Less than a year ago, the people of that country lived under the absolute power of one man and his apparatus of intimidation and terror. Today the former dictator sits in captivity; he can no longer harbor or support terrorists, and his long efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction are at an end.
Month by month, Iraqis are assuming moire responsibility for their own security and their own future. We are working with Iraq's new Governing Council to prepare the way for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June. Iraqis are preparing a new fundamental law, which will guarantee certain basic rights. We will stand with them, and continue to sacrifice to ensure their safety until that work is done.
Our forward strategy for freedom leads us to support those who work and sacrifice for reform across the greater Middle East. Americans and Italians know the days of looking the other way while despotic regimes trample human rights, rob their nation's wealth, and then excuse their failings by feeding their people a steady diet of anti-Western hatred are over. Instead, we must seek a higher standard, one that will apply to our friends in the region no less than to our adversaries.
Just as democratic reform is the key to the future that the people of the Middle East deserve, so it is also essential to a peaceful resolution of the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute. We seek recognition and security for Israel. And we support a viable, independent Palestinian state. But peace wil! l not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain ties to terrorist groups. The best hope for lasting peace depends on true democracy. And a true Palestinian democracy requires leaders who understand that terror has in fact been the worst enemy of the Palestinian people and are prepared to remove it from their midst.
Israel, too, must redouble its efforts by alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people and by avoiding actions that undermine the long-term viability of a two-state solution. President Bush remains committed to the process that he launched on June 24th. His envoy, John Wolf, returns to the region this week to continue this difficult but essential work.
Encouraging the spread of freedom and democracy is the right thing to do, and it is also very much in our collective interest. Helping the people of the greater Middle East overcome the freedom deficit is, ultimately, the key to winning the broader war on terror. It is one of the great tasks of our time, and will require resolve and resources for a generation or more.
This is work for many hands. And here we see our second great responsibility: To keep our alliances and our international partnerships strong and to cooperate on every front as we meet common dangers.
We have made much progress in the past two years -- and Italy has been a steadfast partner on every front, from law enforcement to diplomacy to intelligence. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Italian Red Cross and other civilian agencies have made vital humanitarian contributions to the cause of peace and stability.
My country is especially grateful for the dedication of the Italian armed forces. Yours is the third largest contingent of the coalition in Iraq. And in both Iraq and Afghanistan, your forces have performed difficult duty with skill, and they have faced danger with courage. Last November, Italy said farewell to the 19 military and civilians whose lives were taken in the attack on the police station in Nasiriyah. The United States of America felt very deeply that loss of our good ally. We honor the memory of the fallen. We offer our sympathy to the families and to the great nation! that they served so faithfully.
You have also been staunch allies in NATO, which itself is undergoing the most dramatic and important transformation in its history. You stood with us in invoking Article 5 of NATO's charter on September 12th of 2001 -- an attack on one is an attack on all. And you led in promoting NATO's dialogue with Mediterranean partners. NATO is expanding its membership, creating a rapid response force, leading the International Security Force of Assistance in Kabul! , and supporting the Polish-led division in Iraq. These deployments -- hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles from the European heartland -- speak to our common understand that today's threats must be met where they are, or those threats will come to us.
But we have much more work to do. The need for more deployable forces in the NATO alliance is critical. Now, in this new century, we must strengthen NATO and turn its might against the global forces of terror. Another priority is greater cooperation between NATO and the EU. None of us can afford waste, duplication or competition between the two great institutions in Brussels.&nb! sp;
The grave problem of proliferation also calls for decisive and united action. Today, knowing that terrorists are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, the risks of inaction are impossible to overstate. Different situations require different strategies. We are determined to see that North Korea eliminates its nuclear program and that Iran keeps its commitment not to develop nuclear weapons.
To combat proliferation, we must strengthen existing multilateral institutions and treaties to ensure they are up to the challenges of the 21st century. And where necessary, we must create new mechanisms to prevent the spread of deadly weapons. That is why Italy and the United States, together with nine ! other nations, have formed the Proliferation Security Initiative, to identify and interdict the most dangerous weapons and missile technologies in transit.
In all of our actions, the world's democracies must send an unmistakable message: that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction only invites isolation and carries with it great costs. And leaders who abandon the pursuit of those weapons will find an open path to far better relations with governments around the world.
That message has already yielded a response in Tripoli. In October of last year, the Italian and German governments worked together to interdict a cargo of centrifuge parts destined for Libya and intended for use in enriching uranium to build nuclear weapons. This operation was a powerful demonstration of the value of the Proliferation Security Initiative and a turning point in our negotiations with Libya. In December, after nine months of intensive diplomacy, Colonel Ghadafi voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime's weapons of mass destruction programs.
Today, with the cooperation of Libya's government, American and British experts and international inspectors have already examined a sizable weapons program, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. In the months to come, inspectors will assist Libya in dismantling its entire WMD programs and its longer-range missiles. Libya has now ratified the nuclear test ban treaty, and early next month will become the 159th country to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Our understanding with Libya came about through quiet diplomacy, but our diplomacy with Libya was successful only because our word was credible. That kind of credibility can be earned in only one way -- by keeping commitments so that potential adversaries can have no doubt that dangerous conduct wi! ll invite certain consequences. And so our third responsibility as free nations is to be ready, as a last resort, to apply military force. As President Bush has said, "Our people have given us the duty to defend them. And that duty sometimes requires the violent restraint of violent men."
Ladies and gentlemen, your country and mine have shown that we take this responsibility very seriously. Because we've acted together, because we've shown our resolve, because no one doubts that we keep our commitments, the world is changing for the better.
In Iraq, because we acted, 25 million people live free of Saddam's tyranny. Never again will they have to fear the arbitrary rule of the dictator and his sons -- the torture chambers, the mass graves, the whole apparatus of terror that sustained their power. The people of Iraq have been delivered from a nightmare. And every man and woman who fought for the freedom of that country, every person now engaged in the work of making Iraq a stable and a democratic nation has contributed to a just cause and to the peace of the world.
None of these responsibilities that I have described this morning are easily met. Promoting freedom, justice and democracy in areas that have known generations of despotism is an enormous undertaking. Working cooperatively against the dangers of a new era will place demands on us all. And using military power, when no alternative remains, will always be the most difficult decision that leaders can take. Yet all of these great responsibilities are central to our future success as free nations. By fulfilling them, we will ! bring new hope to millions, and build a more peaceful world beyond the war on terror.
In the great work of our generation, the United States and Italy go forward as the strongest of partners, faithful friends and members of a great alliance for liberty. We know that the momentum of history favors human freedom. When free nations are clear in our purposes, confident in our ideals and unite! d in our defense, no enemy will prevail against us.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 11:58 A.M. (Local)